One of the most common questions I get from parents whose children are learning English is: “How do I help my child with English at home?” These parents have a great understanding of the way language learning works. They are wise enough to know that simply sending their kids off to an English school is not enough to help their children learn English well. They also have a firm grasp of the ever-important role that parents and home environment play in the education of a child. This is an important question that I’ve answered many times in person and now I’m going to share it again with you here today.
I’m going to do a series of posts to let you know the 5 most important things you can do for your child at home if you want him or her to really learn English well. These “secrets” I’m going to share with you are EASY and INEXPENSIVE things that EVERY parent can do….and guess what? They have nothing to do with sending your child to English class! So, if this is something that interests you, then keep reading.
Most parents want their children to learn English well. Obviously it is so important for securing good job prospects, future financial security and availability of information..just try googling a term in English and then the same term in Chinese, right? How many more millions of pieces of information are available to English speakers than Chinese-speakers?…Plenty! So, wanting this skill for our kids is indeed a no-brainer but how to go about it? Bi-lingual Kindergarten, cram school, private tutor? All expensive options with greatly varying degrees of quality. But no matter how you plan on providing for your child’s English education, you must remember the first key thing and this is SO important….
01 Start Early!
In my experience as a mother of bi-lingual children and a teacher I cannot tell you enough of the benefit of starting as soon as your child is born. Children who have not had exposure to English on a regular basis before elementary school, and then enroll in English class are put at a huge disadvantage. Unless they have some natural skill in the area of language or have formed excellent habits, learning English will become difficult and grueling work for them.
I don’t know where the idea came from but I have often heard people say things like, “Won’t children get confused and not learn their mother tongue well?” The answer to that question is a resounding NO! Especially because you are speaking with them in their native language much of the time and you won’t cease doing that. This question reveals a lack of understanding of child development stages and the scientific research behind brain and language development. Even if we don’t understand these things it will be easy for us to come out of the “dark ages” of thinking that children and babies are poor, little, weak creatures who have no powers of their own and know nothing. We will do this by using our common sense.
Let’s find out how all of us learned our mother tongue and how bi-lingual children all over the world simultaneously have learned more than one language quite easily. Everybody learned to speak by HEARING the language first, and for several years. Children develop so rapidly in the early years and acquire SO many skills in such a short amount of time, it is mind boggling. Just look at the growth of the body in just one short year, can you imagine the growth of the brain? Think of how many words a child learns in his mother tongue by his 3rd year.
He is fully able to communicate with others on many topics. The child will know even more words if he has been in a loving and caring environment where adults spent time talking and reading with him. All the while, the child has learned to walk, feed himself, go to the bathroom, and a host of other skills. You cannot duplicate this rapid progress in later years. And the child has done it all effortlessly, simply by listening to the language of those around him and observing the things in his environment.
On the other hand, in the child’s school age years he can spend 6 to 12 years attending an English class and still not have attained the kind of proficiency that a child of 5 may have who spent his early years listening to English on a regular basis.
If you want your child to easily become fully proficient in English and save time and money, you must start early…waiting is not an option! Stay tuned for the second part in this series on “Five Easy Ways to Teach Your Child English at Home.
For those of you who are sitting there thinking, well…great my kid is already school aged, what now. Don’t worry, you still have a chance, it may be harder for you, that is true, but you can use the same techniques I’m going to describe below. You will just have to put in a bit more effort to establish a good habit and routine with your child.
How well the older child fares in learning English has much more to do with his habits and character than with his natural abilities. That is why the focus for older children should be in character and habit training actually.
This is something I hope to address in a future post. Good-bye for now, and happy learning!